Categorized | IN OUR COMMUNITY

‘Lake Street Stories’ is collaborative anthology by 12 authors

Posted on 28 October 2018 by calvin

By JAN WILLMS
An incident on a city bus. A brutal storm on Lake Nokomis. A child who runs from her turbulent home life. A group of fumbling organizers who try to create a summer celebration.

These are just a few of the 12 fictional tales that are in “Lake Street Stories,” a collection of works that are sometimes dark, sometimes nostalgic and sometimes humorous. Written by a dozen local authors and edited by one of them, William Burleson, the one thing that each story has in common is a relationship with Lake St.

Burleson, Steve Wilbers and Megan Marsnik who know each other from classes at the Loft, came up with a brainstorm. “Wouldn’t it be great to get together the best group of writers we could and do an anthology?” Burleson recalled. “We had no particular topic chosen at the time, but we thought it was a great idea; we went off and began recruiting.”

“Steve is a many-published author, and Megan just had a book serialized in the Star Tribune,” said Burleson, who is himself a published author. “It wasn’t hard to recruit writers, because we have been around a lot, and we found some really cool people. We got together and started talking about topics, and we got really excited about Lake St.”

The group started meeting together and became enthusiastic about the project. “A lot of us have a lot more connections with Lake St. than others,” Burleson noted. He said he grew up going to school on the 21 bus, living on Lake St. and in present day catching the bus on Lake St. for work. “Lake St. is a major factor of my life,” he said.

Although the book is a work of fiction, all of the authors have captured a flavor of Lake St., citing locations both past and current that have graced the well-known thoroughfare.

“Everybody looked at the theme and what they wanted,” said Steve Parker, another author. “It was neat to see how many different ways people wrote about Lake St.”

“It took a year,” said Burle­son. “We workshopped the stories. We would work together closely, going over two stories every month, tearing them apart. We did that a second time, working closely together through the whole process.”

Wilbers said the group listened to each other talk about their work, offering suggestions. “We took time, instead of writing to a deadline,” he said. On the second round of editing, the authors tore the stories apart and rebuilt them. They reacted to each other’s stories. And I think it went smoothly because of the leadership; there was just enough direction.”

Photo left: Authors of the new anthology “Lake Street Stories,” recently meet for a creative work session. Back row (l to r): William Burleson, Don Browne, Will Kayser, Drew Danielson, Teresa Ortiz. Front row: Stephen Wilbers, Marcela Estibill, Stephen Parker, Edward Sheehy. Authors not pictured are Lucy Rose Fischer, Barry Madore, Megan Marsnik. (Photo by Jan Willms)

Contributor Will Kaiser said one of the things they struggled with was making sure the group was not comprised only of old white men. “We still have some old white men, but we did make our group more diverse,” he added. “I was happy with that; the discussion was richer.”

Joining the group of writers were Marcela Estibill and Teresa Ortiz, who brought the perspective of other cultures to the anthology.

“The group was very welcoming,” said Estibill. “I always felt like the comments were very useful.” She said that sometimes they did contradict each other, but it was easy to see that maybe they should try different things.

Ortiz said she arrived a little bit late to the project, but she agreed that opinions expressed were valuable. “People were very kind with their opinions, but direct, and that is what you should do,” she said. “We were all good readers.”

Author Drew Danielson said that he always felt the group kept the energy going. “I felt like it had a life beyond whether I felt like writing or not. We were all working on the same thing cooperatively, so I needed to be there and do my part. The project had a feeling of responsibility to it.”

A labor of love was how Edward Sheehy described it. “I didn’t feel like it was a pressure situation at all,” he explained. “I felt the core of the other writers, trying to bring our talents together. It was a really important experience, and all the constructive feedback I got was very helpful.”

Kaiser said some stories were darker in tone than others, but all members of the group genuinely liked each other. “It was a very generous group to work with,” he noted.

The book’s editor, Burleson, said it helped to have incredibly talented writers participating. “Some are published, and some are unpublished but should have been published by now,” he said. “We definitely creamed the top off all the Loft classes I have taken, and we see the results now.”

“When you write something, and 12 people are giving you feedback, you sometimes wonder where it is going,” said contributor Don Browne. But he said the process was very helpful.

Wilbers said the authors were also free to ignore the opinions given. But he agreed that candid responses from the participants were helpful. “Sometimes I have to percolate for a while. If I knew something was not quite working, the other writers led me in the right direction.” He said that writers can be very competitive, but were not in this project. “We all wanted everyone to be successful.”

The authors knew they wanted to have the profits from the anthology to benefit a charity, but they were not sure at the beginning which one to choose. “We started discussing it and agreed it should be for one of the current new arrivals on Lake St.” They chose CLUES.

Ortiz works for CLUES, a nonprofit organization that provides services to Latinos in the Twin Cities. CLUES was housed next door to the Roberts’ Shoe Store building that burned on Memorial Day. Initially, nothing was hurt, but when the building collapsed the roof of CLUES fell in.

“CLUES serves the people who have just moved in,” Ortiz said.

“It has everything to do with Lake St.,” Kaiser added.

Reflecting on “Lake Street Stories,” Burleson said he has been around Lake St. for 59 years. “It used to be boarded up storefronts and porn shops. It was horrible, for the most part, a terrible stretch. But now it is so alive, and it really has a nice flavor to it, that it has not had before in my lifetime.”

That liveliness and flavor has been captured in this anthology, which is now available by order at your favorite neighborhood bookstore, or online at a variety of retailers including amazon.com, or in E-Book.

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